On Friday, Nov. 6—the same day Florida added 5,245 coronavirus cases and 54 deaths—Tampa country music club Dallas Bull posted a since-deleted picture of a packed house taking in a concert by country singer Tyler Farr. Other social media users screen-shotted, then circulated a since-deleted picture from a local music photographer showing mask-less dozens standing shoulder to shoulder. Another Instagram video from the show confirms the packed conditions.
In July, after the Bull said it was in “dire need” of help to stay alive, assistant manager Jose Romero told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that the 31,000 square-foot club—which can pack in more than 2,100 on a busy night—was hosting a maximum of 50 people on the nights that it was open under tighter restrictions.
In September, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis moved to phase three of reopening, rolling back almost every measure the state enacted to combat the spread of the coronavirus. The executive order did not address fines incurred by businesses, but it did suspend fees and penalties for individuals who violate COVID-19 restrictions, effectively removing local enforcement mechanisms that require masks when inside public areas. Hillsborough County, where Dallas Bull is located, requires wearing face coverings when people are inside businesses when a six-foot social distancing isn’t possible.
On Sunday night, CL reached out to Romero from the Bull and a rep for Tyler Farr for any comment on the crowd. Dallas Bull’s photo from the concert was taken down shortly afterwards. We’ll update this post with any new comment.
On Monday afternoon, Todd Pratt, Media Relations and Communications & Digital Media at the county told CL that Hillsborough County Code Enforcement is aware of the complaints about recent overcrowding at the Dallas Bull.
"A Regulatory Compliance officer has gone to the business and talked to management to educate them about the business’s responsibilities governing social distancing and face coverings," Pratt wrote.
In Hillsborough, the Regulatory Compliance officer does have the ability to cite the business; a violation carries a $165 fine. Pratt told CL that no such citation has currently been issued to Dallas Bull.
Live music venues and nightclubs have undoubtedly been pushed to the brink of extinction due to COVID-19. The loss of any venue is a huge loss for the local music scene. Locally, live music institution Skipper’s Smokehouse closed after 40 years, citing COVID-19 as the nail in the coffin.
The National Independent Venue Association, which now has almost 3,000 members, is lobbying in D.C. and hoping lawmakers sign off on the RESTART Act and the Save Our Stages Act. Last month, Pollstar wrote that the Save Our Stages Act had just secured its 200th cosponsor.
Locally, most venues and bars—especially those with an eye on the health of the community—have experimented with limited capacity concerts.
But health experts say large gatherings contribute to the spread of coronavirus.
In July, Tampa ER physician Dr. Jason Wilson, as an anecdotal, told the Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group that the known science of coronavirus “is really starting to coalesce around the idea of us being together in close proximity in a normal social type environment where there might be touching a lot of talking... intimacy, all those kinds of things I think are the things that are becoming the real way the virus spreads around.”
Dr. Jaimie Meyer, a Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist, recently wrote that, “Until an effective vaccine against COVID-19 is available, we have to continue to do the hard, albeit tedious, work of keeping ourselves safe and healthy—by wearing facial coverings, keeping our social distance, practicing good hand hygiene, and staying home when we’re sick.”
Online, commenters noted how large events like the Tyler Farr concert hurt the local music scene in the long run. Others were saddened and embarrassed by the actions of community members.
“It’s so nice being reminded, almost daily, that an embarrassingly large amount of people in the community you live in don’t give a shit about helping slow the spread of a highly infectious, spiking virus during a global pandemic,” one commenter wrote. “They won’t even bother to take the most basic safety precautions for the greater good. Rampant selfishness and apathy.”
“These are the people who bring disease to other family members who then get sick and die, and these people still wouldn't care,” wrote another. “Wouldn't acknowledge they just hurt their own family, wouldn't change their behavior if given another chance. They are fucking trash.”
Clay Parkinson, a manager at New World Brewery—a Tampa venue and restaurant that’s hosted limited capacity shows at its outdoor stage and inside listening room—was astounded.
“What a shit show, numbers are on the rise and while many of us are trying to keep it safe there are bars like this that just do not care at all,” he wrote on social media.
“Over 230,000 people are dead because of this virus that an astounding amount of people refuse to take seriously. We will see more deaths that will be called 'fake' and if we do shut down again (like many countries and other cities around the nation are) the same people that call it fake will bitch about having their ‘freedom’ taken away because of an attempt to prevent more deaths,” Parkinson added. “Dallas bull has a capacity of over 2,000 and it looks like they got damn close to that if not hit it. That's now nearly 2000 people who will go back about their lives not knowing if they contracted the virus last night, not knowing who they might pass it along to that it would kill. This insane display of selfishness is disgusting.”
Still, one person saw “Free people, living their lives and creating antibodies” and a “naturalistic alternative to vaccines.” It's important to note that the herd immunity method pitched in Sweden has been questionable at best.
In its early stages of infection, coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, is largely undetectable. Symptoms can take anywhere from two days to two weeks to appear. Some critics of strict social-distancing mandates say COVID-19 is just like the flu; that is false. Dr. Mauro Giacca, from King's College London, told the BBC that people can have "complete regeneration" of the lungs after severe flu, but added "this does not happen" with COVID-19. Patients who eventually die from COVID-19 often do so while on a ventilator. Survivors often see scarring on their lungs; the long-term effects of COVID-19 are still unknown.
The U.S. has seen 10 million cases of coronavirus in 2020, along with more than 239,000 deaths. In Florida, there’ve been more than 843,000 cases and 17,000 deaths. On Saturday, the Tampa Bay Times wrote that 560 people are currently hospitalized across the Bay.
The Times added that Florida’s average weekly positivity rate is about 7%, according to Johns Hopkins University, making the Sunshine State one of 35 states that does not meet the World Health Organization recommendation for a 5% positivity rate or below.
UPDATED: 11/09/20 3:55 p.m. Updated with comment from Todd Pratt, Media Relations and Communications & Digital Media at Hillsborough County.
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